A Very Mean Year
1961 drew to a close U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy described it
as being “a very mean year” for the Kennedy presidency. Almost
everything in the field of foreign policy had gone wrong, and as usual
when things go wrong, they had done so in threes. In April
of ’61—Kennedy’s presidency opened with the Bay of Pigs
fiasco in Cuba. In June—in Vienna, Khrushchev verbally beat the
young president to submission, stunning both the President and the allies.
And in September—the Soviets made the division in Berlin permanent
by building the Berlin Wall. It was a year where almost everything had
gone wrong, “a very
Four decades later and closer to home, there’s another politician
who has had “a very mean year.” That’s Oregon Gov. Ted
Kulongoski. Twice on the major issue on our current agenda, “whether
to increase taxes in a bad economy or limit the growth of public spending,”
the governor has been on the wrong side and soundly defeated by the Oregon
people, or will be on February
3. If ours was a parliamentary system instead of a presidential/executive
system, these two votes would be considered “no confidence”
votes for the new administration and the queen would be summoning the
governor to tell him it was time to go. But in our system Kulongoski still
has three full years to govern.
In October of ’02 we chose not to endorse Kulongoski for governor
because we worried about his ideas about leadership. We wrote: “Kulongoski
believes, and he does so passionately, that he can make the state work
better by being a better facilitator, a better conciliator than Kitzhaber.
Kulongoski believes that he can bring the conflicting parties together
to the negotiating table
that he will charm them into the kinds of acceptable compromises that
will get Oregon moving/working again. Just
what’s wrong with this strategy? Consider that professional unions,
whether it’s teachers or government workers, are the biggest stumbling
block to change… Kulongoski says he can negotiate away the differences…
The problem: unions have proven time and time again that their opening
position is to give away nothing… nothing.”
“very mean year” for the governor his compromise approach
has led him to supporting two statewide tax increases that, once again,
have or will be decisively defeated by Oregon voters.
For Gov. Kulongoski to be successful in his next three years he will have
to throw away his compromise style and start to lead. And he will have
to do the leading by being an authentic and effective fiscal conservative.
State capitols in America, in difficult economic periods, are run by strong
chief executives. They are not run by legislative committees.
So the question hangs out there. Can people change? Can the governor become
a leader? Can he become a fiscal conservative? We hope so, because we
wish him well in the next three years, and we wish the state well. Enough
with the “very mean years.”